2050 Network Vision - Aurecon

Design as a Catalyst for Business Success


As described by the Australian Design Council, design is a core capability and problem-solving tool for the 21st century. Not only does it empower products, services and technologies that speak to and lead the world, design can similarly energise business strategy. 

By embedding design thinking and methodology into business practices, companies strategise for diversified, long-term growth and success. Their innate focus on understanding customer, stakeholder and internal needs is at the core of it all, allowing compelling frameworks and innovations to evolve, be refined and cemented.

Design transforms businesses with a comparative advantage into competitive advantage. Read on to discover how design-led strategy can catalyse business success in our dynamic modern industry.

GATE 2020 – 2021 Good Design Award Gold Winner – saw the NSW Department Department of Primary Industries’ Global Ag-tech Ecosystem incubator program be reviewed, refreshed and delivered to foster greater benefits to society, industry and global agricultural sectors. Image: NSW DPI

Dynamism with design

While traditionally associated with product and service design, design thinking in the strategic sense has come a long way since its fledgling beginnings in the mid-20th century. It was then that pioneers Herbert Simon and Buckminster Fuller began to advocate for more empathetic and human-centred design approaches to problem-solving beyond just the products and service businesses create. They highlighted design’s potential on an organisational level that would only grow.

The years leading up to the turn of the century saw the rise of design as a competitive advantage. Companies such as Apple in the 1980s embodied the movement, applying design-thinking not only to create products that emphasised distinctive aesthetics, but also in areas of usability, user experience, marketing and organisational structure and strategy. The term, “design thinking”, was subsequently coined in the 1990s and popularised by numerous design consultancy firms and education institutions such as Stanford’s d.school.

Now, in the 21st century, the ability of design methodologies, frameworks and thinking has gained widespread adoption throughout global industries. Their ability to foster innovation and solve complex business problems has been increasingly emboldened, helping organisations strategise for agility, customer-focus and competitiveness in a rapidly changing marketplace.

Aurecon’s co-created Powerlink network roadmap – 2050 Network Vision – utilised flexible, human-centred design to plan for the future of one of Australia’s largest electricity transmission networks. Image: Aurecon

How design-led strategies can amplify business

Design-led strategies are empowered by the non-linear and iterative design-thinking process. It involves five phases – empathise, define, ideate, prototype and test – which design experts say challenges problems that might not be visible from surface level evaluations. This allows businesses to:

  • Empathise and collaborate with stakeholders

Design thinking promotes collaboration and empathy within all stakeholder groups, namely customers, clients, partners and internal business entities. Whether it’s through surveys, research, interviews or observation, this helps companies gain a deep understanding of needs, challenges, aspirations and the various intersections of players. 

  • Better define the problem

Putting the diverse perspectives of the first design thinking stage into play, businesses are better able to define the problems or opportunities they want to address. The expansive insights open the doors to possibly unforeseen and unsatisfied needs, helping realign strategies away from previous business goals to meet them. This clearly sets a direction for the next steps forward.

  • Freely ideate and brainstorm 

The design thinking process encourages businesses to generate solutions and strategies without judgement. This involves cross-disciplinary collaboration between internal departments for ideation so that a range of innovative possibilities and ideas evolve. 

  • Emphasise prototyping and iteration

While prototyping a business strategy might be more abstract than that of a service or product, a somewhat tangible representation or simulation of an initiative can be crucial for strategic experimentation and ideation. Whether it’s in the form of a visual representation, roleplay or simulation, prototyping allows businesses to see how a strategy might play out before it’s iterated further or tested.

  • Test, validate and refine

Prototype tests internally with employees or externally with customers, for example,  gather valuable data and insights for businesses. The feedback and findings can help validate the viability of an idea, or expose its insufficiencies. Either way, opportunities for refinement will likely arise and empower the most dynamic and adaptable strategy.

  • Embrace a culture of innovation

Linking back to the mantra of the Australian Design Council once again, design enables effective innovation across products, services, systems, experiences and business models. By applying its principles in strategy, businesses are able to foster a culture of innovation that embraces experimentation, creativity and continuous learning.

HESTA Hybrid Ways of Working – 2022 Good Design Award Winner – defined what a balanced world of work means for HESTA and created the guardrails to bring it to life. Image: Deloitte

The key to ongoing business success?

When applied to business strategy, design thinking enables businesses to better understand their customers, identify opportunities and act on them through a holistic and innovative process. It’s in this way that companies can gain an indispensable strategic advantage and cement a strategy ideation approach that is dynamic and reactive.

Stay ahead, enduringly innovate and strategise for long-term success with design. 

Explore the Good Design Index for more stellar examples of good design

As the 2023 Jurors come together to evaluate, crown and celebrate the brightest designs of this year’s hallmark Award season, why not turn back the clock and discover some innovations of the past? Search by category or have a blind deep dive – find inspiration either way.


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